“I’d love to try yoga but …”
“I’m not flexible”
“I’m not a ‘yoga’ person”
“I’m no good at meditating”
“I’m too self-conscious, everyone will laugh at me?”
As a yoga teacher, these are the most common responses I get when people are hesitant to give yoga a whirl. It’s such a shame, as honestly, it’s those who are stiff as a board, ‘highly strung’ and self-deprecating who can benefit from yoga the most.
I’m going to be honest with you, yoga is not about flexibility.
Or being a ‘Zen’ person (what does that even mean, anyway?).
And trust me, no one is good at meditating when they start. How can they be? We live in a world that expects us to be ‘on’ and available 24/7.
That’s the beauty of yoga. It’s not about looking good. It’s about feeling good.
And there are few feelings more pleasant than being well and truly ‘yoga-stoned’. Best of all, it’s a mellow high that is totally legal. A side effect of your own neurotransmitters.
You, my friend, have the power to stretch your way to a state of calm.
No pricey pills or promising powders. Or apps, mountains of self-help reading or an overseas trip to a fancy schmancy wellness retreat. Just you, a mat and (at the least the first few times) a nurturing instructor, to show you the way.
Where Do You Start?
Right where you are. Well, not literally. If you’re reading from the loo, hold off a second.
Toilet jokes aside, starting begins with showing up – preferably to a beginner’s class, or one where the teacher offers various levels so you can start at your own pace.
If you can’t touch your toes, bend your legs. If you can’t get your feet flat in a squat, lift those heels. If your hips feel tight, you’re normal. Everyone – even those who practise yoga daily – have tight hips. It’s a trademark of modern living. Repeat after me; “yoga isn’t about what I look like, it’s how I feel that counts”. Then ask yourself, “does this feel good?” If yes, stay. If no, adjust. If you have questions, ask your instructor at the end of the class and don’t be shy about it. Believe me, when it comes to yoga, there’s no such thing as a daft question.
Because truthfully, as far as the asanas (yoga poses) go, they’re just glorified stretches. Their purpose is to prepare the mind and body for meditation. And meditation is simply designed to give the mind a break from the waking world. Meditation is sleep for the mind.
Put to you like that, it doesn’t sound so intimidating, does it?
Even still, it can take some time to get used to meditating. To just stopping and sitting (or lying down on your back). Time to notice the breath. To feel your body melting into the floor. Everything – even the flesh on the face – softens. The electricity in the body. The tingles, pulses, shivers and beats, simply taking some, time out just for you.
Then a thought comes in, so, you remind yourself to come back to the breath. And, the body melting into the floor. And the flesh on the face and … another thought comes in. And again, you come back to the breath.
Inhale. Exhale. Thought.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. “I’m getting the hang of this”. Thought. Dammit!
It’s okay. Humans have thinking minds by default. Just like babies learn to walk, in time we learn to release attachment to thoughts and the emotions that they arouse so that there’s room for the ideas and inspirations we otherwise don’t create space for. And that’s why we come back to the breath. It’s not because thinking is ‘bad’. It’s too giving our energy a chance to reset and our minds somewhere to go in the interim. And hopefully, after fifty or so minutes of asana, the body will feel (not look, feel) relaxed enough to do so.
Come Yoga with us. We can’t all touch our toes. We still feel stress. And get anxious, very anxious. Our family members will be the first to tell you that behind closed doors, we too can behave ‘highly strung’. That’s why we show up for yoga. To use stretching as a tool to relax the body and prepare the mind for the 10 minutes in our week where, with any luck, we’ll manage to score, at the very least, a few moments, of complete serenity.
Yoga is an ancient tool that helps us survive the modern day.
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